Gubernatorial candidates, from left, U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, Eddie Rispone, and Gov. John Bel Edwards, face each other in the second debate, hosted by Louisiana Public Broadcasting, on Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, at Angelle Hall on the campus of the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

If you’re a Republican voter who doesn’t know much about U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, maybe you’ll believe that he is a Nancy Pelosi camp follower who voted with the liberal speaker of the U.S. House more than 300 times.

It’s not the only time that utterly flawed statistics have been tossed around in the race for governor, but it’s a particularly dumb example, from one attack ad on Abraham issued by his Republican competitor, Baton Rouge businessman Eddie Rispone.

Abraham is a northeast Louisiana congressman with quite a conservative voting record, so it was clumsy to issue an attack so clearly at variance with reality. His GOP colleague from upstate, Mike Johnson from the adjoining Shreveport-based district, is not endorsing in the governor’s race, but he went on Facebook to defend his friend’s orthodoxy.

"Let me be crystal clear," Johnson posted. "The accusations that Ralph Abraham is some kind of liberal are pure nonsense. He is a lifelong conservative, a committed Christian, and one of the most honorable men I have ever known."

In any legislative body, there are many occasions when opponents will agree, even more than 300 times. Sometimes there are minor bills, like renaming a courthouse somewhere. Sometimes there are procedural motions, where the speaker and Republicans agree on the next step in the legislative calendar.

Sometimes, albeit more rarely, there are occasions when Republicans and Democrats unite to approve budget bills or other must-pass legislation. Since the impeccably conservative Steve Scalise is part of the House GOP leadership, he might call upon his Louisiana colleagues to back the leadership, in a deal with the speaker and other Democrats, even if Abraham or others aren’t fully happy with the decision in question.

If you want the Congress to work, maybe it’s a shame that GOP members and the speaker don’t vote together more often.

Abraham is not the only candidate with a right to be aggrieved at misuse of voting records in the current campaign. A recurrent theme by GOP challengers and state Republican Party chairman Louis Gurvich is that Gov. John Bel Edwards is a hypocrite when he attacks the record of former Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Edwards voted for five of Jindal’s eight budget bills! How can he claim Jindal mismanaged state finances?

Edwards laughed at the Press Club of Baton Rouge forum at the notion he was a Jindal vote during eight years in the state House. But he also made a couple of serious points, one of them that Abraham is a member of a body that doesn’t have to balance its budget, but only borrows more money.

The state’s budget bill must be balanced. Quite often, Edwards — sometimes aligned with conservative Republicans unhappy with Jindal’s spending plans — pushed for amendments that significantly altered the giant general appropriations bill.

Members voting for passage of a must-pass bill are inevitably going to be supportive of compromises, swallowing parts of the budget that one doesn’t like to win changes in other parts of the measure. Abraham has served only in a highly partisan House where one rarely deviates from the party line.

Edwards said he’s proud of cleaning up the budget that Jindal funded by using one-time money and draining trust funds. The attack by Gurvich and others only underlines a real accomplishment of the governor’s four years in office.

Email Lanny Keller at

Our Views: The candidates’ unsustainable path for Louisiana

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